This was an enjoyable and creative game with the unfortunate downside of being really friggin' hard. In addition to just being generally difficult and only offering three continues, it was also remarkably easy to kill your partner in two-player mode (as demonstrated in this Angry Video Game Nerd review). I subscribed to Nintendo Power when the game came out, and they were REALLY hyping the game, with lots of previews and even a comic. (This was prior to the brief period when EVERY issue had a comic, although I was still subscribing then.) I understand there was also a pilot for a cartoon show, but it was never picked up. This probably had something to do with the overabundance of cartoons about heroic anthropomorphic animals in that time period. In addition to the obvious Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you had Bucky O'Hare, Street Sharks, Samurai Pizza Cats, T-Rex (a syndicated show featuring dinosaur cops with freeze rays), and probably more I'm forgetting.
Next, we move on to a more obscure game:
This was also favorably reviewed in Nintendo Power (okay, most of their reviews were favorable, but they did occasionally admit to some not-so-great features), and we got it for Christmas in...I think it might have been 1990? Your characters are snakes who eat little blobs called Nibbley Pibbleys in order to make their tails grow. The object was to climb up a mountain that eventually led to the Moon, and seemed to be made up primarily of floating platforms. There were a lot of weird enemies along the way, including bouncing toilet seats and a giant foot. The first few levels were pretty easy, but it became more difficult very quickly. There was apparently a rocketship in the very first level that would take you a few stages ahead, but we were never able to reach it in time.
But I'm sure you'd want me to move on to a game you might have actually played, so how's this? While Donkey Kong was popular enough to star in four different games in the arcade era, it was his nemesis Mario who went on to become the big celebrity, leaving the ape to wallow in eight-bit obscurity. But Rare changed that by giving DK his own starring role in:
As I've mentioned before, though, it's never entirely clear whether the star is the original Donkey Kong, his son, or his grandson. Regardless, he wears a necktie, and he and his little buddy Diddy Kong (this was some time before Sean Combs starting calling himself Diddy) have to rescue their banana hoard from the Kremlings, led by King K. Rool.
The Kremlings seem pretty similar to the Koopas, but they're based on crocodiles instead of turtles. The Mario cartoons showed the Koopa royal family with crocodile-like snouts, though, and I've seen it pointed out that Bowser looks a lot like K. Rool while dressed in his royal cape in "Never Koop a Koopa." Anyway, the Kongs and the Kremlings continued to battle it out in several sequels, most of which I've never played or seen played, but that all seem to have the same basic plot. Usually some Kong or other is kidnapped, and his kins-apes have to save him and her. Actually, the Battletoads games kind of worked the same way. I believe there was a cartoon series based on the series, but I've never watched it. One of the things I thought was cool about the games was that you could ride on oversized animals, my favorite being Rambi the Rhino.
So what happened to Rare? From what I understand, they were eventually purchased by Microsoft. The rights for the Donkey Kong characters reverted to Nintendo, which is why characters like Diddy and Funky Kong are showing up in the Mario Kart games.
If all goes according to plan, then I'll probably have a bit to say about Earthworm Jim next week.